Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is an adventure game that’s so hard-boiled you could serve it with a side of toast.
Set in the ’70s, you are Kyle Hyde: a disgruntled salesman who works for a company called “Red Crown.” Three years ago, Hyde was a detective for the LA police department who was forced to confront his former partner, Bradley, for doing…something; the game doesn’t really tell you at first. Since Hyde blows a hole in his chest, I’m assuming Bradley either killed his girlfriend or stole his Star Trek DVDs, both very heinous crimes. Afterwards, he left the police force and joined up with Red Crown as a salesman with a weird side job: He gets paid to find lost items. I’m not sure someone could make a living off finding lost keys; it sounds like something his boss said when Hyde asked for his performance review.
Anyways, he’s ordered to drive to Hotel Dusk, a crappy hotel on the outskirts of Los Angeles, to find a mysterious box. When he arrives, he starts discovering clues that rekindle his detective instincts, and starts delving into the building’s shady past.
When Kyle heard that Bradley lied about liking The Walking Dead,
Kyle didn’t take it so well.
OK, so the game’s story sounds like every single detective cliché put in a blender with the music video for “Take on Me,” but it’s much better than that, honest. I can’t reveal too much, it being a mystery story and all, but I can say that it’s a surprisingly well-written tale based off of a very worn-out genre. The conversations between the characters feel natural and appropriate for the time period; they call a gun a “piece” and money “scratch.” It amazes me that this is a Japanese game, because most of the time, Japan’s view on America is not very accurate (*cough*Metal Wolf Chaos*cough*). Yeah, it dances along cliché, but it’s done so straight faced and so well that it doesn’t matter.
The characters really shine through in this game. Kyle starts off as your standard rough-bitter detective guy; he drinks scotch, he monologues whenever he has a moment alone, and he drops one-liners like Marlon Brando if he had fortune cookie papers taped to the brim of his hat. But the game goes further and really builds up his hopes and fears, which all nicely wrap around his main goal: finding out why Bradley betrayed him all those years ago. Without going into spoilers, all of the characters have intricate back-stories and compelling reasons to be at that hotel. My favorite one is Melissa, a little girl who runs away from her neglective father, who at first sweeps the “worst brat” awards. But she grows into a mature young lady who should be referenced in design textbooks under “how to make children characters.”
Kyle Hyde’s dating tips: You find the hottest girls
walking on a highway alone.
If nothing else, Hotel Dusk gets points for originality in its use of the DS hardware. The puzzles are basically unique exercises in what you can do with the DS screens, like looking on the back of a jigsaw puzzle by closing and opening the DS, or using the stylus to pick a lock. It’s pretty cool and very satisfying when you figure the puzzles out, which can make or break an adventure game. The game also switches between the walking view and an investigative view, where you can move the scene around and check items at your own pace, and it feels very intuitive.
Sometimes the game will give you information that you need to remember, so Kyle provides you with his notebook, in which you can draw penises record important dates or secret codes.
Here’s the big problem with the game: It’s a graphic novel with puzzles. “Well, isn’t that what an adventure game is?” No, shut up. I’m doing the review here, not you. Go sit in the corner and think about what you did.
The problem is that there’s so much text that half of your game will be hitting the “next” button until either the character is done talking, or your eyes start to bleed. Remember those puzzles I was talking about before? Those are two of the maybe five puzzles that require actual skill to complete; everything else is chatting. Kyle uncovers some evidence, you confront somebody, and they spew out their life story like they’re trying to pitch it as a movie to you.
But Kyle does look like a bad-ass detective
version of me, so I’ll let it slide.
Another complaint I have is that the game is a harsh mistress. I’m going to put this in bold so it sticks: SAVE THE GAME OFTEN. Like, after every conversation, if you can. If you mess up certain puzzles, or say the wrong thing to certain guests, they’ll refuse to talk to you and the game will be over, forcing you to reload your last save. Here’s the worst part: The dialogue can’t be skipped, meaning you’ll have to spend another goddamn hour listening to that annoying brat whine about how drunk her dad is until you want to drop kick her into the nearest chimney.
But despite those problems (believe me, there are a lot of problems), I really like Hotel Dusk. It’s the same reason I like Harvest Moon: It’s one of those games that you play at a slower pace, to mix it up after shooting a group of terrorists in another brown-gray “realistic” game. It’s sort of like an omelet; it’s got well-cooked ham and delectable cheese, but some asshole left some shell pieces in there. And I hate shell pieces in my eggs. But you eat around them because your girlfriend made it for you. And apart from the occasional crunch that has you contemplate homicide, it’s actually quite good.
What, nobody else has had that problem? Bollocks.